One of the most controversial issues in almost every town and city centre in the developed world is the cost of parking. It's important to try and balance the needs of all users, which inevitably involves compromise and some stakeholders not getting everything they want. Here are three tips to try and help you:
Try to provide a neutral territory for discussions and negotiations about parking charges. Your reputation as fair and representative needs to survive topical discussions which can become heated, so it may be wise to avoid taking sides and instead facilitate consultation and informed discussions which ensure that all parties genuinely have their say. Building an evidence base (stats, comments, feedback) also helps to inform decision-making based on proof rather than popularity.
It is valuable to start from a position of knowledge and making sure your stakeholders understand some of the basics can save a lot of arguments, including:
There is no such thing as free parking! The space has an economic value, needs to be maintained, and enforcement provided to prevent abuse. In out of town shopping centres the stores pay for the parking provision in their service charge in order to provide it free at point of use.
Curb space is limited and needs to be managed for the benefit of all. In most places this means short term on-street parking (as well as provision for loading bays) and off-street for longer term. The most common form of management is through the rates charged and duration permitted
Work from facts and information to help build a consensus. Gather data about busy and quiet times and use parking charges to manage customer flow. For example, if your data tells you that 1600-1800 is the quietest time on your High Street, then reduce parking charges between these hours to encourage extended stays and increased visits. Or, if the car park or streets nearest the shops are filled with the same cars all day (i.e., there's no 'churn' as people parking live or work in the town), amend the charging structure (i.e., two hour stay only) so that these cars move to secondary or park and ride locations. The results can improve footfall, access, and sustain or even increase parking revenue. Work with the private and local authority parking providers in your town to manage parking charges in a joined-up way and present a clear message to users.
When it comes to parking and parking charges the old adage ‘You can’t please all the people all the time, but you can please some of the people some of the time’ is very true indeed.